Posts Tagged ‘ethereal’

BIG | BRAVE share a video for "Of This Ilk" – taken from their forthcoming album VITAL arriving on CD and Digital formats this Friday via Southern Lord, and with LP to follow in Summer. Pre-orders are now live and available via the Southern Lord store, Southern Lord Europe, Bandcamp and Evil Greed.

About the new song and video, which originally premiered via Roadburn Festival’s digital edition, Roadburn Redux, vocalist Robin Wattie comments, "This video and song is an ode to those that understand this all too well, all too deeply. There is a silent form of suffering that most do not share. It is a private shame that is very public. The percentage of the global population that take these painstaking, costly efforts in whitening, or rather more aptly, bleaching their skin is higher than a lot would understand, let alone, would ever consider. There is a billion dollar industry in injectables and cream-like products containing harsh and even life-threatening chemicals to lighten, clarify, and whiten one’s skin. This video is an ode to my younger self, and to all the other children, teens and adults of the past, present and future that have used bleach in every way possible, that withdrew from the sun, used clothespins on their nose, scraped their skin raw, buying every product available, in trying every means they can think of to achieve this exclusive coveted lightness, whiteness."

Watch the video here:

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Southern Lord – 23rd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Canadian trio BIG | BRAVE return bolder, heavier, and more intense than ever on Vital. But when to start?

I seem to recall an essay by William Burroughs which contained the advice for writers that narrative had to be visual in order to work – meaning that writing about a ‘indescribable monster’ just wouldn’t cut it: readers need to be able to visualise the monster in order for it to be scary. Writing about music may be a slightly different discipline, but the challenge is always to convey not only what the music sounds like – the objective bit – but how and why it makes you feel the way it does – the subjective, critical bit. After all, you’re not a music critic without providing any critique. And yet the first – and for some time, only – word that comes to mind to ‘describe’ the experience of listening to Vital is ‘overwhelming’.

The crushing power chords crash in after just a matter of seconds on the first mammoth track, ‘Abating the Incarnation of Matter’. But it’s the jolting, juddering stop / start percussion that hits so hard that really dominates. There’s so much space – and time – between each beat, that it feels as if time is hanging in suspension, and you catch your breath and hold it, waiting, on tenterhooks. And it’s this, the sound of a tectonic collision, juxtaposed with Robin Wattie’s commanding yet incredibly delicate, fragile vocal that makes it such an intriguing and powerful experience. As the song progresses, the anguished calling becomes a ragged, hoarse-throated holler and you feel the emotion tearing at her vocal chords, ‘dissolving each layer until there is little matter left’.

The yawning throb of feedback that fills the first minute and a half of single ‘Half Life’ sounds like a jet preparing for takeoff. And when it stops, it’s the hush that’s deafening and uncomfortable. The lyrics are actually an excerpt from the 2018 essay collection How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, by Alexander Chee. And when the music ends, leaving nothing but Watties’s acapella vocal, they’ve never sounded more stark and intense. Once you become adjusted to noise, there is little more shocking to the system than its absence. And so it is in life: we’ve become accustomed to traffic, to bustle, to busy shops and offices, to streaming media – and when it stops, we struggle to know what to do.

And so it is that the dynamics of Vital are so integral to its impact. ‘Wilted, Still and All…’ is different again. The album’s shortest track is still of a dense tonality and substantial volume but manifests as a billowing cloud of grumbling ambience, and it provides a certain respite ahead of the punishing ‘Of This Ilk’ – nine and a half minutes of slow, deliberate, and absolutely brutal punishment, a bludgeoning assault on a part with Cop-­era Swans. The drums and bass operate as one, a skull-crushing slab of abrasion that hits like battering ram, while the guitars provide texture as strains of feedback howl and whine. The false ending halfway through only accentuates the force ahead of the extended crescendo which follows. It’s the repetition that really batters the brain, though: bludgeoning away at the same chord for what feels like an eternity is somehow both torturous and comforting. The third and final movement is rather more tranquil, but nevertheless always carries the threat of another wave of noise, which doesn’t arrive until the title track, a nine-minute finale that grinds out a dolorous drone, a crawling dirge where a single chord and crashing beat rings out, echoes and decays for what feels like an eternity.

‘Timeless’ is a word that’s so often used and misused in describing music, but with Vital, I mean it to be understood rather more literally, in that time stalls and everything – time, perception, and the world itself – hangs, frozen in suspension. While listening to Vital, nothing exists outside this moment, and everything is sucked into the vacuum of its making. You can barely breathe or swallow, and for the time it’s playing, there is nothing else but this.

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28th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

VVolves seriously impressed with their debut single, ‘Momentum’, unveiled last June – a heady rush of shoegaze and pop with ethereal vocals and a repetitive groove, it was, well, impressive.

‘Well-Loved Tales’ is an admirable follow-up: rich in atmosphere, but at the same time, a bold electronic pop tune, it’s a magnificently balanced composition. The rolling drums and teetering piano add drama to a guitar soaked in chorus and reverb, and with a rich, luscious production, the sound and the feel and the vibe is every inch the Cure’s Disintegration. And let’s be straight: if you’re going to take your cues from any classic album that has a truly timeless feel, that’s probably a top pick. There’s also a hint of ‘Naked and Savage’ by The Mission in the brooding, hypnotic hues, too.

There isn’t an attention-grabbing hook or an overt immediacy about ‘Well-Loved Tales’ – rather it casts a dreamy sonic spell that draws the listener in with a captivating sense of melody.

The ‘sparse’ version which serves as the B-side lives up to its name: stripped of the drums and the drama, slow-drifting synths provide the main accompaniment to a dreamy vocal that’s almost folksy, and equally, almost part of the instrumentation, and it’s nice. Very nice. As is the mesmerising video which accompanies it.

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25th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Following what, at least to the outside world, appeared to be a fallow spell between the release of beech and its attendant remixes version, during which time elk became elkyn, Joseph Donnelly returns remarkably swiftly with a new single, ‘if only it was alright now’.

It’s a sentiment that’s so, so relatable right now as we find ourselves eddying along in a relentless tumult of who knows that the fuck. And in the space of just over three minutes, Donnelly captures and articulates all of the uncertainty and wraps it around with a warm, thick blanket of home and opens the window to let the light in.

It begins in what’s swiftly become trademark style, his quiet, introspective vocals almost a mumble, trepidatious, accompanied only by sparse, picked acoustic guitar. And it’s truly beautiful, in that most intimate, soul-searching of ways. But from here, things evolve as layers of textured sound build on one another, and at pace, and in no time, galloping drums are bounding along, pushing the song onwards, and it’s a rush – a clean, uplifting rush, like a warm breeze on a perfect summer’s day, where the clouds are just wisps, high in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

Comparisons and references that spring up here and there, but to evoke them feels futile, and moreover to diminish the emotional and sonic richness of the work, which exists in its own self-made space, and completely apart from all external forces of influence and time, creating a brief but magical moment you wish could be frozen to last for all eternity.

One of alternative music’s most prolific songwriters, Emma Ruth Rundle has surfaced with a never-before-heard song, “Staying Power.”  The track was recorded as part of 2018’s On Dark Horses studio session but didn’t appear on the paramount recording.  Now, the steadfast single has surfaced on streaming services (and will appear on Bandcamp with all sales proceeds will going directly to the artist this Friday, July 3)—  stream/purchase/download here: https://smarturl.it/ERR-SP

Listen to ‘Staying Power’ here:

Emma Ruth Rundle comments: “There is very little mystery as to what this song is about. The lyrics are not metaphorical. It’s about being a touring musician and trying to survive, to conjure the self discipline to go on without sacrificing sensitivity. How we can become hardened as a result of constantly selling our feelings, how I didn’t want that to happen to me but could feel the callousness building. It’s also about the financial feast or famine and whether a little immediate monetary gain is worth the expenditure of youth. It’s about wondering how long I might be allowed to do this and the fear that it could end at any moment—  with Covid, the song has some renewed relevance in that regard. It talks about what it means to endure and what the rewards and consequences of such persistence might be.”

As it’s been for many artists, 2020 was cut short for Emma Ruth Rundle; she’d just finished a North American tour with Cult of Luna when the Covid-19 pandemic hit in the states, and was confirmed as a curator of the monumental Roadburn Festival that has since been rescheduled to 2021.  With the newfound time at home, Rundle decided to release previously unheard “Staying Power” as its lyrics rang true once again.  The tracks from this 2018 On Dark Horses recording session feature Emma Ruth Rundle’s most cinematic approach to her sincere and candid songwriting — they are as disquieting as they are ethereal. 

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Cruel Nature Records – 17th November 2019

Christophe Nosnibor

Nathalie Stern made her solo debut with Firetales in 2010: almost a decade on, she delivers a follow-up in the form of Nerves and Skin. The album promises to ‘builds on the experimental folk traditions of her debut, awash with vocal harmonies, synth loops and drones but with the maturity of an artist who knows their craft and is top of their game’.

Although now resident in Newcastle, Stern’s roots are Swedish, and it’s traditional Swedish folk which informs her music. While I have precisely no knowledge or experience of Swedish folk music, the compositions here, as the title suggests, conjure a sense of the barest essence of human existence. Nerves and skin the components essential to the senses, especially touch, are here exposed and highly sensitive. As much as anything it’s the organic feel that permeates the album that renders it so subtly affecting as it drifts and melds to form a sort of biological symbiosis with the listener’s internal mechanisms while it plays.

Stern’s voice is the primary instrument here, and she builds layers of harmony, often by unconventional means, with breaths and short, wordless sounds looped to form cyclical motifs atop sparse synth drones

‘Luchdora’ brings low-impact, lurching beats that thud soft and there’s a heartbeat thump on ‘Then You Talk of War’, which delves into darker territories with moody bass oscillations over which layers of choral vocals build majestically.

‘Deep Sleep’ wheezes monotonously, a lugubrious drone: Nathalie’s vocal is barely a whisper, haunting, ethereal, the melody a sing-song lullaby with an uncanny, shadowy twist that may not exactly be Chuck Palahniuk, but is still moderately unsettling. ‘Moderately unsettling’ is a fair summary of the atmosphere that creeps across the compositions as the album unfolds. Although fear chords creep all over the gloomy ‘Stig in Lucia’, it’s not overtly dark, but the disembodied vocal echoes evoke a certain cognitive dissonance.

And for all its oddness and otherness, it’s on an instinctive, human level that you experience Nerves and Skin: you feel it, somehow, almost subliminally, and it touches parts rarely reached and in ways that are abstract and indefinably, but nevertheless real.

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Evi Vine previews ‘My Only Son’ single ahead of the Black Light White Dark album. The new LP features The Cure’s Simon Gallup, Fields of The Nephilim’s Peter Yates and Martyn Barker (Shriekback, Goldfrapp).

Evi formed this band while living in LA, quickly getting a support show opening for Slash at the Whiskey-agogo. She has collaborated with Graham Revell (SPK, The Crow Soundtrack), The Eden House, Tony Pettit (Fields of the Nephilim), and Peter Yates (Fields of the Nephilim).  In 2016, Evi sang on Phillip Clemo’s DreamMaps album, together with Talk Talk’s Simon Edwards and Martin Ditcham, subsequently making appearances on BBC6, BBC3 Late Junction and Jazz FM.

In recent years, Evi Vine has toured with The Mission, Chameleons Vox, Wayne Hussey, And Also The Trees, Phillip Boa and The Voodoo Club, and Her Name is Calla. After hearing Evi Vine’s debut album and including it among his top five albums, Wayne Hussey invited them to tour with him in 2016 and subsequently with The Mission in 2017. Invited on stage to sing three songs by The Mission, the seed was sown and Vine joined The Mission as featured vocalist for their 30th Anniversary Tour.

Watch ‘My Only Son’ here:

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Panurus Productions – 19th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

What have we got there, then? It would appear to be a collaborative release from Drooping Finger and Möbius, utilising the former’s lo-fi minimal electronic drone as a setting for the latter’s looped wordless vocal textures.

I must admit that I’m unfamiliar with ‘Newcastle gloomlord’ Drooping Finger, but ‘melancholic vocal duo’ Möbius I am aware of. Their first collaborative work, imaginatively titled Drooping Finger & Möbius is pitched as combining their talents, and consists of their set at The Gosforth Hotel’s Sumner Suite and material recorded during a session at First Avenue Studios in Heaton.

And what does is give us? The BandCamp write-up tells us that ‘Guttural gurgles are embedded in glacial electronics whilst siren songs tumble overhead. The tones hover above the murk at times whilst disappearing into its eddies at others as the collaborative trio draw you into their bleak atmospherics’. And all of it’s true. Although mostly it’s the murk that dominates, with sounds and tonal ranges all but buried beneath a sonic smog.

The live side, (at least corresponding with the cassette release) containing one track simply entitled ‘Sumer Suite’ is first, and is 26 minutes of dark ambient rumblings and janglings and mid-range drones, punctuated at first by stuttering, echoic beats, a shifting soundscape of disquiet. Ominous hums and swells of distant thunder provide the backdrop to disembodied, angelic voices low in the mix and veering between euphoric grace and the anguish of entrapment. Sonorous low-end booms out like a warning signal and cuts through the rising cacophony. But this is not a linear composition, there is no obvious trajectory: instead, the objective is the creation of atmosphere, and while it does naturally ebb and flow, peak and trough, the sustenance of tension is the priority here. Amidst slow crashes and waves of darkness emerge… nothing but nerve-tingling tensions, and even as the piece faded to silence, its hard to settle completely.

The studio side – again, consisting of a single track called ‘Stung’ which spans a full half an hour – provides more of the same, and with similar sonic fidelity at least on my speakers. Heaving drones like distant passing motorcycles drift in and out of range. Ghostly voices drift around nerve-chewing mid-range drones that shimmer and churn like foam on sand. On and on. Again, it doesn’t go anywhere, but that it’s the intention: it funnels and eddies to immersive effect. The tension builds not by any increments within the music, but by accumulation.

It’s a lights off, candle lit, eyes closed type of album, whereby there are no dominant features, and barely any features at all. In context, features are surplus to requirement: Drooping Finger & Möbius makes its presence known subtly, indirectly, creeping under the skin and weaving its dark magic subliminally.

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If a musician’s creative output is intrinsically linked to the journey that brought them to that point then it is hardly surprising that Discolor Blind’s debut EP Long Vivid Dream is a mercurial blend of flavours and genres. The journey taken by frontman Askhan Malayeri has been one that has taken him from his native Tehran to Cambridge and London and then across the Atlantic to Canada, where he established his own studio and began pulling together all of the ideas that would weave together as his first significant release.

The first single from the EP is ‘Black and Grey’, a song shot through with the melancholia and angst that crept in from the cold Canadian winters he now found himself acclimatising to. But it also sums up the myriad textures found on the record, a mix of chilled and measured washes, which are used as platforms for more intricate sounds from raw guitars and plaintive pianos to pop beats and even sultry jazz grooves.

It’s a subtle, moody song, and while we’re not huge fans of lyric videos as a thing here at AA, this one at least has some compelling visuals accompanying a truly magical tune. Watch it here:

 

The premise of this collaboration between Aidan Baker and Claire Brentnall of Manchester-based purveyors of ethereal dark pop, Shield Patterns, is neatly summed up in the press release. It’s not an indication of lethargy to quote directly and at length but a recognition of the fact that a label or PR has the best handle on what it’s doing, and is every bit as capable of articulation as a journo. So much so, that there are those who also have a handle on the possessive apostrophe, for which respect is due. So, ‘Delirious Things is an exploration of Aidan Baker’s interest in 80s-influenced cold-wave, shoegaze, and synth-pop from such recording artists as Factory Records’ Durutti Column, Joy Division, and Section 25 and 4AD’s Cocteau Twins and This Mortal Coil’.

‘Combining song-oriented tracks with abstract interludes, the primary instrument on Delirious Things is a 1980s Casio synthesizer, rather than Baker’s usual guitar, though the synth is processed through his usual guitar effect pedals, creating heavy, layered washes of droning synth sounds overlaying electronic rhythms and pulsing bass lines. Baker is joined by guest vocalist Claire Brentnall, whose voice is reminiscent of Liz Fraser and Kate Bush but still distinctly her own.’

It’s a curiously hushed, tempered work and it’s the overall sense of quietness which is its most striking feature. We live in a loud world. As I noted when reviewing Jeffrey Roden’s Threads of a Prayer – Volume 1, I find it increasingly difficult to find the time and space to listen to quieter, more contemplative music: the ‘noise’ of the fast-paced society in which we now live is no longer a metaphor, and it’s evermore difficult to find a moment’s peace, metaphorically or literally. I’m not in a position to offer empirical evidence to substantiate the correlation between the pace and volume of life with the increasing prevalence of mental health issues because I’m a) a lazy journalist b) too busy to invest time on such detours while researching album c) struggling with my own anxieties (aren’t we all in our various ways, whether we admit it or not?). All that said, it’s perhaps also worth noting that despite the bewildering quantity of releases I receive to review, either physically or digitally, the number of works which dare to explore such low volume registers are few and far between. This means that while often being barely audible in some settings, such releases stand out alone by virtue of their difference. But, significantly, Delirious Things also stands out on merit.

Delirious Things is an album which is rich in atmosphere, but there’s something about it which feels uncomfortable and radiates a subtle but inescapable sense of discomfort. It takes a while to ascertain precisely what it is that’s awkward and vaguely discombobulating about it. Superficially, the songs are spacious, atmospheric dreamworks, th tructures loosely defined, the sounds partially abstract, the emotions they convey as fleeting and ephemeral as the recollection of the sensations and images of a dream on waking.

There’s an icy fragility about the songs, and Brentnall’s breathy vocals – as much reminiscent of Cranes’ Alison Shaw and Toni Halliday of Curve as the common touchstones of PJ Harvey and Kate Bush – are captivating yet, at the same time, also subliminal in their power. Laid down in layer upon harmonising layer, her voice is everywhere, and drifts from every corner of the music and even the silence between the sounds. This is nowhere more true than on the album’s vaporous final track, ‘Shivering’, which delicately glides beneath the skin and brushes at the bones and the soft matter beneath. The funereal ‘Dead Languages’ has echoes of late Joy Division or Movement era New Order, and distils its sonic elements to a stark minimalism that’s spine-tinglingly powerful.

 

Aidan & Claire

 

Beneath the surface, ripples of tension radiate and currents of darkness surge, silently but powerfully. Baker utilises stereo panning to optimal effect and subtle details like a fractional lag between beats across the left and right channels are incredibly effective, particularly when listening through headphones (which is strongly advised, because it facilitates optimal appreciation of the detail, while also reducing the bled of noise from the outside world, be it the babble of work colleagues, the hum of the boiler or the whirr of the laptop fan: reducing extraneous interference is essential in order to absorb the meticulous detail of this album). There are fractional delays between some of the beats between the channels. The effect is barely perceptible, but nevertheless a tiny bit disorientating. Of course, once you’ve noticed this, you can’t unnoticed. It’s impossible to tune out. But tuning in and embracing the It’s when one begins to look closer into the album’s detail that its true magic discloses itself.

On the surface, it’s a collection of quiet, calm, opiate-slow songs with a misty, hazy quality. How does this, and the referencing of the Cocteau Twins reconcile with 80s-influenced cold-wave, shoegaze, and synth-pop? Again, it’s in the detail: Delirious Things incorporates stylistic elements of all of the above, but reconfigures them, so, so carefully. The album’s success lies in the way it draws together recognisable genre trappings and familiar stylistic tropes and renders them in a fashion which is similar enough to be still familiar and yet different enough so as to be unfamiliar. What is different about this? you will likely ask yourself. In the mixing – the pitching of the beats way down in the mix, the way in which the sound is scaled down and paired back and stripped out of made for radio / iPod compression and exists with a very different set of production values. This gives Delirious Things a feeling of freshness, and ultimately renders it a triumph of artistic vision over commercial conformity.

 

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